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Judgment reserved on DA's 'Zuma stole your money' SMSs

Sapa

Judgment in the urgent application lodged by the ANC against the DA over a text message about President Jacob Zuma has been reserved.

President Jacob Zuma. (Supplied)

The high court in Johannesburg on Wednesday reserved judgment in the ANC's urgent application against the DA over an SMS about President Jacob Zuma.

Acting Judge Mike Hellens asked counsel for both parties to submit heads of argument to him by 2pm on Thursday arguing whether he was sitting at the electoral court, the high court, or both.

This would determine what he could order.

He indicated earlier that judgment would not be granted later than Friday.

Ismail Jamie SC, for the Democratic Alliance, argued that his client had not stated that the public protector's report had said Zuma had stolen taxpayers' money.

He said it "showed" he had stolen public funds to build his Nkandla home.

"The DA generally believes ... that what happened here amounted to criminal conduct. It laid charges," he said.

Jamie read out sections of Thuli Madonsela's report, titled "Secure in Comfort", where she finds Zuma was aware of security upgrades, had complained about the windows, and asked for a cattle kraal to be built.

He quoted Madonsela saying the project was a "licence for looting ... created by government".

"The public protector does not find that Zuma stole money ... but a reasonable person can conclude that what happened was misappropriation for personal benefit.

"The benefactor here is the chief guardian of the Constitution."

Mass SMSs
?Jamie was defending the DA sending over 1.5-million SMSs to prospective Gauteng voters stating: "The Nkandla report shows how Zuma stole your money to build his R246-million home. Vote DA on 7 May to beat corruption. Together for change." 

The ANC wants the DA to retract the SMS, stop sending it and apologise to the ruling party, or be fined up to R200 000.

Gcina Malindi SC, for the ANC, argued the SMS was in contravention of the Electoral Act and Code of Conduct.

He said even if the public believed Zuma had stolen money, it did not mean a political party could say it, especially with a month to go until the May 7 elections.

"We have to adhere to code and pledges signed on the eve of this election."

Malindi accused the DA of making words used in Madonsela's report mean what it wanted them to.

He said the ANC's objection to the SMS was meant to enhance the promotion of fair elections.

"[The message] could heighten the volatile atmosphere in the elections. If this is allowed to persist we all know what it will lead to," Malindi said.

He said there had been relatively peaceful elections since 1994.

Fact
Jamie said the ANC's application was about a balance between the DA's right to freedom of expression and the right to an orderly election.

"Neither of these rights is absolute, which is a deficiency of the [ANC's] argument."

Malindi argued that the DA's SMS made a factual allegation that inflamed feelings about Zuma's character.

"The DA could never have believed the assertion to be true." – Sapa

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